Revamped Bills believe doormat days are over
Buddy Nix isn’t afraid of the New England Patriots, and the
Buffalo Bills general manager gets a big chuckle out of how the
statement he’s made several times this offseason can create such an
Then again, Nix doesn’t see a need to take back what he’s said
in what can be interpreted as yet another sign of how the
expectations have changed on a team eager to shed its longtime
reputation of being the AFC East’s doormats and, more specifically,
the Patriots’ patsies.
”Listen, I want you to write this,” Nix said. ”The Patriots
are where we want to be. If we’re going to win the division, we’ve
got to beat them. Then our next step is we want to be the favorite
every year, just like they are.
”And if we’re scared of them, we got no chance of doing
Believing – or Bill-ieving as it’s phrased in Buffalo – they’re
pushovers no longer, the Bills have assumed a sort of swagger in
preparing to open the season on Sept. 9 against the New York
”It’s got to be go time,” receiver Stevie Johnson said.
”Playoffs, I don’t want to be the guy who says, `Playoffs or
bust,’ but you get the sense. I’m confident in my team. I don’t
want to speak too soon, but I think we’ve got the talent to make
big steps this year.”
The raised expectations are new to a once-proud franchise that’s
barely made a peep during a 12-season run of missing the playoffs –
the NFL’s longest active drought. It’s a stretch in which Buffalo’s
enjoyed one winning season (9-7 in 2004) and gone 10-22 in two
years under Nix and coach Chan Gailey.
After spending the past two seasons methodically and gradually
rebuilding the roster from scratch, Nix upped the ante
significantly this offseason by making a big splash.
After surprising many around the NFL by first luring defensive
end Mario Williams to visit Buffalo hours after the free-agency
period opened in mid-March, the Bills then delivered by signing the
two-time Pro Bowl pass-rusher to a six-year, $100 million contract,
the richest deal ever awarded a defensive player.
The Bills weren’t done yet in their bid to revamp an anemic pass
rush, by signing defensive end Mark Anderson a week later.
These were uncharacteristically aggressive moves made by a
small-market franchise that had been previously regarded as too
cheap and/or too inept to attract star players in the primes of
And Nix understood the consequences had the Bills failed to land
”Once we got him here, had we not signed him, it would’ve done
more damage than you could imagine,” Nix said. ”Yep, same old
Instead, it has the potential to be a new beginning.
With 88 1/2 combined career sacks, Williams and Anderson give
the Bills a bookend pass-rushing duo they’ve lacked, particularly
against the pass-happy Tom Brady-led Patriots, who have burned them
far too often over the past decade. And they help transform what
had been a patchwork defensive line into a potential powerhouse
that’s anchored by tackles Kyle Williams, who’s healthy after
having season-ending foot surgery, and Marcell Dareus, who is
coming off a promising rookie season.
Add in the selection of first-round draft pick, cornerback
Stephon Gilmore, and the Bills defense has the potential to be
vastly improved over the porous unit that allowed a franchise-worst
5,938 yards last season.
The Bills offense returns mostly intact after showing flashes of
potential in finishing 14th in the NFL in yards gained – it’s best
finish since 2002. The question is whether returning starter Ryan
Fitzpatrick can become more consistent after he and the rest of the
offense unraveled down the stretch.
Questions remain regarding depth at several positions, including
backup quarterback, where the Bills gave up on Vince Young and
acquired Tarvaris Jackson in a trade with Seattle this week.
Concerns have also been raised over how inconsistent the Bills have
looked in opening the preseason with three straight losses.
”I think we’re headed in the right direction, I’ve got no
doubts about that,” said Nix. ”I’m very confident we’re on the
Nix has never been afraid to speak his mind.
In first introducing himself to Bills season-ticket holders, Nix
quickly won them over with a colorfully turned statement about how
he shared their impatience and frustrations. ”Don’t tell me about
the labor pains, just show me the baby,” he had said.
”Well, we’ve had the labor pains,” Nix said, reflecting on how
the past two seasons have gone. In 2010, Buffalo opened losing
eight straight. Last year, the Bills got off to a 5-2 start before
losing eight of their last nine.
Now, it’s time to start producing.
”We expect to be competitive and a factor throughout the
year,” Nix said. ”We expect to be good.”
Online: http://bigstory.ap.org/NFL-Pro32 and